You are here

Things to Remember Before You File an 11(c) Whistleblower Complaint:

(1) Strength in Numbers: Union members are in a much better position to enforce their rights than individual workers. Even if you are not in a union, you will be on firmer legal ground to fight retaliation if you join with at least one co-worker in raising questions or complaints about safety. Under the National Labor Relations Act, actions taken by more than one worker may be eligible for protection because they are “concerted activity.”

 You can file a retaliation claim with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in addition to filing a retaliation complaint with OSHA. See factsheet on Rights under the NRLB for more information.

(2) Chart Your Course Carefully: If you have a union at your workplace, always raise health and safety questions with it first. If you don’t have a union, consider whether your employer is likely to respond positively to a question or suggestion about safety. If so, you might be able to resolve the problem without conflict. But you should prepare in advance for a hostile response, no matter how unlikely it might seem.

(3) Make Your Safety Complaint to a Government Agency for Additional Protection From Retaliation:  Make your complaint to a government agency, such as OSHA, your local Fire Department, or state or county Health Department, instead of to your employer. An employer who first learns about a safety complaint from an official investigation may hesitate to retaliate because the government is already investigating. However, complaining to the government first is no guarantee against retaliation. 

(4) Keep Good Records: Keep dated notes of details and the names of witnesses. If your employer responds orally, make a note of what is said, when and by whom, and the names of any witnesses. It is a good practice to keep your notes on consecutive pages in a bound notebook. Keep copies of any documents. Also keep notes of your regular hours of work and duties; note that there are many forms of retaliation besides being fired. See Box 2.

(5) Keep Records Away From the Workplace: If your employer retaliates against you, you could be prevented from retrieving anything from the job. 

(6) Don’t Miss Deadlines: If you have been retaliated against for exercising an OSHA right, you have only 30 days to file an 11(c) whistleblower complaint with OSHA. You can file your initial complaint by telephoning any OSHA office and saying that you want to file an 11(c) complaint, but it is best to file by certified mail, because you will have a record that the complaint was received. NLRB and state OSHA plans have different deadlines and rules for filing. (For example, you have 90 days to file in California, but they will not accept complaints by phone, email, or fax.)

(7) What to Include in Your Complaint: There is no official form for an 11(c) complaint. Instead, you should submit a brief letter stating that you have been retaliated against because you exercised a right relating to safety and health. An OSHA investigator will contact you for details, so you do not need to include them in your complaint. However, you should keep records with as much detail as possible. OSHA will accept a complaint in any language. See attached sample complaint form.

(8) Who Can File a Complaint? You can file an 11(c) complaint yourself, or you can authorize a representative (such as your union, a COSH group, or anyone who you designate) to do it for you. An 11(c) complaint can be filed with any OSHA official or at any OSHA office. You can find an OSHA office in the telephone book, under U.S. Labor Department – Occupational Safety and Health Administration, by dialing 1-800-321-OSHA, or by clicking here.

Other Information About Whistleblower Protection

What Employer Activities Are Considered Retaliation?

How OSHA Determines If Retaliation Took Place

What You Can Expect After You File An 11(c) Complaint

Share/Save